To the Stars



Azar Almasi is one of the characters you meet in my new release Dante’s Heart: The Full Saga. Azar grows for herself a spacefaring vessel made entirely of vegetation and travels the galaxies, seeding new life on the planets she finds.

“Vast and nearly complete was her ship behind the lab, grown entirely from plants: wings of green vine, months of stored oxygen, a living hull covered in great blossoms that drank in the sun, converting its energy to power and propulsion. Legless, the hijabi botanist climbed hand over hand under the yellow petals and slid into a hammock of interwoven tendrils. She finished her last gene splicing; green buds slithered into her nose to help her breathe, gentler than the doctors’ tubes. She let the tethering vines slip, and the helium sacs under the wings lifted her like a summer soap bubble into the sky. Toward the stars. At ninety-eight she was still young; she would see them all.”

This illustration of Azar is by Chaz Kemp and appears in the book.

You can get your copy of Dante’s Heart (in paperback or kindle edition) here.

The Big Lie


Trigger Warnings: School shootings, assault, and why the media can go f*ck itself. And some cussin’.

Real talk for a minute. I would so appreciate it if the media wouldn’t run headlines that are all about how a young killer went on his killing spree because one of his victims previously “refused his advances.” Who cares. That girl he shot in Texas didn’t owe him shit. She is not responsible for her death or his other classmates’ deaths. No one owes anyone their heart or body, as if they’re for sale and he by virtue of his extreme (and murderous) passion had racked up enough unrequited-love credit to buy her, and now our media and our culture want to respond as if her refusal to sell at the market value makes her culpable for his decision to deal with his emotions by gunning other kids down. People aren’t commodities. Kids and teenagers aren’t commodities. When someone kidnaps, rapes, or murders another human being, it’s not because that other person had a dress too short or “wasn’t nice” or refused to go out on a date. It’s because the abductor/rapist/killer decided they owned that other person and could do with them as they pleased. They decided to hurt or destroy another person. They decided another person belonged to them, that they had bought or earned or were entitled to that person as their possession. And that is some fucked up shit.

And when you spin a story about how some girl “rejected his advances” and triggered his killing spree, that is some fucked up shit. Because then you are authorizing his presumed ownership of her, and you are validating the aggrieved attitude of every other mean-minded youth or incel who feels entitled to possess another human being regardless of their consent. And when that next jackal guns someone down or hits them with a car or holds them imprisoned in a basement or vents their embittered entitlement in bullets on a school, you know, that won’t be your fault. It will be theirs. But your rush to endorse and validate and excuse them is so fucked up I don’t know where to start.

Loudly for those in the back: My oldest is eight. She’ll be a pre teen in a few years. She doesn’t owe anyone shit. She will never owe anyone a date or a smile. It doesn’t matter what she wears. It doesn’t matter how much someone may want her. You all teach your kids that she’s a human being.

You teach your kids that a person they find attractive does not belong to them, and they are not entitled to another’s affection or intimacy. You teach your kids that other people are human beings, and that intimacy is a gift to be freely given. Teach them to own their own emotions and choices. If you are religious, then dammit, teach your kids that other human beings are made in the likeness of God with all of the dignity and agency that implies.

Teach your kids that when you feel rejected, then you write atrocious love poems and you cry your heart out and you f*cking deal with it until the disappointment or the hurt passes. Then you go on. And you do that because your feelings are your own and you honor the other person because if their affection isn’t a free gift from another free being then it isn’t something you want, and because if you value another person it does not mean you value them as a thing to possess, it means you want to see them alive and free and full of life and you happen to want to be two free people who live life abundantly together. In the name of God, our kids – and our grownups – need to remember what it means to be human beings and to act toward each other as toward other free and whole beings. We grownups aren’t failing our responsibilities to the young by leaving incels without dates and sex on demand. We are failing our young by telling them lies and by neglecting to teach them what it means to be human. Do that and maybe we get a society with fewer school shootings, rapes, and assaults.

But I don’t want to hear any more of this claptrap about how rejected in love this poor mass murderer felt, because the only way that matters a dime is if you buy into the same lie that burned in that kid’s heart when he shot his classmates: the lie that you own or can own or should own other people. The lie that makes you feel stolen from, the lie that makes you pick up a firearm to steal it back. That lie runs deep in our culture and that lie is killing us.

Stant Litore

Cover Reveal! Dwarves and Dragons, Starships and Cyborgs…


Officially out Monday but quietly available here right now is Dante’s Heart: The Full Saga. I am pleased to share with you a peek at the gorgeous cover by artist Holly Heisey!

Dante's Heart cover

Depicted here are two characters from the saga. Fang Yu is a cyborg knight defending humanity’s descendants in their pilgrimage across the stars. Defending them primarily from pirates, I should add. She literally duels pirate-boarders on the exterior hull of their spacecraft, shooting out titanium nets and wires and other weaponry from her wrists.

Badass in an entirely different way is her companion Siwatu, a necromancer rescued from the hold of an interstellar pirate ship. Trained on Old Earth, Siwatu can give rest to angry ghosts, singing them lullabies in the endless dark until they are at peace — but it comes at a terrible cost to him, as great fungi burst from his spine, malignant growths that devour the sins of the dead as he sings and then must be carved away from his body.

Fang Yu’s great longing is to retain and recall the memories that matter to her, memories so often lost over the millennia as her body is burned in battle and then repaired and repaired and repaired; Siwatu’s greatest yearning is to find a place that is silent, without any ghosts of the past screaming in his ears, and to find someone to share that place with. Join their journey here.

Stant Litore

A Bookworm’s Wealth


When I hold my Kindle in my hand, I am deeply aware of how rich I am. For I hold thousands of books and can summon them at a touch, where my ancestors a thousand years past were illiterate, and the lords they served had to mortgage their second castle to afford a book or maybe two.

Stant Litore

P.S. One of my readers cheekily wrote in to add, “It also hurts less when you fall asleep and drop it on your head,” and I can confirm that this is definitely true. I am still smarting from the time, years ago, when I dropped a hardcover The Lord of the Rings omnibus on my head when I fell asleep reading in bed.

The Meaning of Human Existence


“O great philosopher, what is the meaning and purpose of human existence?”

“To clean up baby poop.”

“Um…say again?”

“To ensure the health and survival of the next generation. To build a clean and good future. To clean up baby poop. So much baby poop.”

“I must admit, I was … looking for something a bit loftier.”


Thursday Night’s Dreaming


Now that was a beautiful dream. I dreamed that J.R.R. Tolkien and I were having tea and crumpets spread with lavender jam Jessica had made, and were discussing certain etymologies in ancient Greek, rather passionately if amiably. It was raining softly outside in the garden. Death had left Ronald rather relaxed. At one point he pulled a sheaf of scribbled papers out of his jacket and let me read a little of it, and read a little of it aloud to me, in that unique cadence of his. It was a screenplay entitled “Choice,” starring Gollum. “That young fellow Serkis is welcome enough to the part,” Ronald said, “but bother and confusticate Hollywood and every one of their money-grubbing Orcs if they misplace a single line. They have little respect for authors, living or dead, and less for their viewers. As soon entrust my manuscript to a stampede of wildebeests.”

I asked him how Jack Lewis was doing and he made a face, but there was a trace of fondness in it. “Tilting at windmills, as ever. Half as clever as he believes and twice as annoying as he suspects. And tipping back ales with the ferocity and vigor you’d expect. Well. He’s doing very well.”

We read the screenplay. After, I was so excited at how amazing it was – Gollum’s lines were so good, each of his personalities’ lines!!! – that I ran out of the house in a dash, leaving behind my hat and my handkerchief, and rushed across the wet grasses in search of Jessica, to tell my love all about it. Leaving Tolkien to finish off the crumpets and lavender jam and tidy up, because my head was full of squeeing over what he’d written, and I was a dreadful host.

And then Jessica woke me, but I woke giddy from a beautiful dream.

Wherever Ronald and Edith Tolkien are now, I imagine J.R.R. is writing stories.


The Stabby Thing: Know Your Swords


I’m tickled by the etymologies of swords.

Sword” – from an Old English word meaning “sharp.” Menace me, will you? Behold as I unleash my Sharp!

Gladius” – Latin. The Beater or The Breaker. A tool of Empire. As in “we are Romans and we will beat you into submission. With these. You will comply.”

Chereb” – Hebrew. The blades one finds in the Old Testament. The word means “drought.” As in, when I cut you, all the water will drain out of you and there will be a desert in your body. I will make you a desert.

Estoc” – from Old French verb “to stab”; literally, the Stabby Thing

Falchion” – also French, “sickle.” We are taking this metaphor of reaping the enemy like wheat very seriously today.

Khanda” – the Divider. Because you are about to be sawn in two.

Saber” – “It Cuts.”

Rapier,” the dueling sword – Differing theories, but most probably from Spanish “ropa.” So in the 1500s, rapier probably meant “The One You Wear With a Fancy Dress.”